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Archbishop Etienne named coadjutor archbishop of Seattle

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage to be coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle, meaning he will assist and could succeed Archbishop J. Peter Sartain in leading the archdiocese.

Archbishop Etienne, who will celebrate his 60th birthday June 15, has been in Anchorage since October 2016.

Archbishop Sartain, who will turn 67 June 6, has led the Seattle Archdiocese since 2010.

Archbishop Etienne was preparing for Holy Week on the morning of Saturday, April 13, when he got a call from Archbishop Christophe Pierre. the apostolic nuncio to the United States, saying Pope Francis had appointed him coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

"To say I was caught off guard would be an understatement," Archbishop Etienne told Northwest Catholic, magazine for the Seattle Archdiocese. "You just never expect these phone calls."

Nevertheless, he said, "My answer was immediately to say yes."

In his nearly 27 years as a priest and 10 years as a bishop, he's learned to trust in God's providence when the Holy Father asks him to take on a new responsibility, "to follow the Lord to another land."

"My life is at the service of the church," he said. "I'm a pastor at heart."

Archbishop Etienne's appointment was announced by the nuncio April 29; a "rite of reception" Mass — because Archbishop Sartain remains archbishop of Seattle — will be celebrated June 7 at St. James Cathedral in Seattle.

Archbishop Sartain explained in an April 29 letter to archdiocesan Catholics that a series of spinal issues prompted him to write to Pope Francis last September requesting the appointment of a coadjutor archbishop, "with a view toward retiring much sooner than typical, because of my health."

"To say that I am delighted by the Holy Father's choice would be an understatement," Archbishop Sartain wrote. "Archbishop Etienne is a wonderful shepherd whose love for the Lord is expressed through a deep life of prayer and devotion to the sacraments, as well as contagious enthusiasm for the proclamation of the Gospel and service to those in need in the name of Jesus."

As coadjutor, Archbishop Etienne will automatically become the head of the archdiocese when Archbishop Sartain steps down.

"Archbishop Etienne and I will finalize the date later this year on which he will formally succeed me as Archbishop of Seattle," Archbishop Sartain said.

Archbishop Etienne said he is excited about the transition to Seattle.

"I've had great esteem for Archbishop Sartain," he said. "We've known each other since we were priests, before either one of us were ever named bishops, and he's just a great, great man. And I have no doubt that I'm inheriting a church that's in fine shape, having been under his guidance."

Archbishop Etienne was born June 15, 1959, in Tell City, Ind., to a "very Catholic family," the second son of Paul and Kay Etienne.

After high school, he spent five years managing a local clothing store and said he had his own plan for his future: a self-made businessman, married with a big family and raising horses and beagles.

But, he said, "God eventually started stripping away, piece by piece, my dream to replace it with his. And his dream is far better than anything I could have come up with on my own."

He attended Bellarmine College in Louisville, then the University of St. Thomas/St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., graduating with a degree in business administration.

From 1988 to 1992, he was a seminarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he earned a degree in sacred theology.

He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis June 27, 1992, and returned to Rome a few years later where he received an advanced degree in spiritual theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019